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Complete Guide to Leatherworking Tools for Beginners

Complete Guide to Leatherworking Tools for Beginners

Nothing matches the creative process of leathercraft. Fun and easy-to-learn, a thrilling challenge to master, it is a test of nimble fingers, dexterity and creative vision augmented by a methodical and meditative art of making. Beginners' leatherworking projects are exciting opportunities to develop through doing, growing in both a physical and emotional capacity through a reflective and deeply personal art.

If you want to start leatherworking, but you’re not sure where to get started, then you likely have two questions in your mind;

  1. What tools are required?
  2. How to use each tool?

Fortunately, it's simple to assemble a beginner leather working tool set. Beginners’ leatherworking tools focus on a core set of instruments and utilities, with the same leathercraft tools being used from the first day of leathercraft to the thousandth finished project. This handy list of must-haves for your leather tool kit will tell you what leathercraft tools you need to start your DIY leather journey and explain how to use them as part of a beginners leatherworking kit.

1. Scratch Awl

Scratch Awl

A mainstay of leathercraft and any beginners leatherworking projects, the scratch awl is used to trace outlines on leather’s surface or to pierce through the leather and punch sewing holes. Similar to a needle but without the thread, they have a rounded handle giving greater maneuverability.  

2. Harness Awl

This specialised Awl leaves diamond-shaped holes for stitching and weaving in thicker leather, which makes them perfect for saddle and bridle making among other heavy duty leather projects.

3. Harness Needles

Harness Needles

These specialized, blunt tip sewing needles are easier to steer, mitigating the risk of marking the leather as you thread. This is because their firm eyelets keep the thread steady. Although also often used for saddlery and harnesses, they are also great for bag and shoe making, or any leather work with thick material that requires extra pressure and durability to peirce, and a great addition to your leather tool kit.

4. Thread

You have a choice when it comes to thread. Waxed or Linen? There are others, but these are a great starting place. Linen thread offers high gripping support for thinner leathers and leather products, the kind that are more delicate and will see less action. Waxed thread is heavier and more durable, thicker thread better for thicker leather projects. When deciding on thread for a beginner leather project, think first of the function of your project, and how resistant the leathercraft will need to be.

5. Shoemaker’s Knife

Emblematic of leatherwork, little leatherwork can be completed without at least some use of a knife. We suggest that you start with the Shoemaker’s Knife, which are often made of solid metal and come in straight or curved varieties, ideal for multiple disciplines, from cutting, skiving, scraping and large trimming to shaping the soles of shoes. There are so many variants which are used in so many different ways. Usually, a Shoemaker’s knife is recommended to beginners. 

6. Self Healing Cutting Mat 

This smooth, damageable surface has enough give to protect the knife blade as you cut through leather. This ensures you get the most out of your knives, whereas using harder cutting surfaces can damage the blade.

7. Pricking Iron

Pricking Iron

A multi-pronged utensil, with between two and twelve teeth, Pricking Irons are used to plan out your holes for stitching equidistantly so that they are ready for punching. Pressing into the leather leaves a row of grooves that are perfectly aligned, meaning that you will have symmetrical stitching in your design; an absolute must in any DIY leather project.

8. Bone Folder

Used to create a crease in the leather’s edge, such as when you want to press a thin line near the outer edge of a belt, they also have a number of more practical uses when folding and shaping your DIY leather.

9. Cork Back Steel Ruler

As expected, rulers are for measuring and cutting the leather, so that you can mark in cut lines, along with punch and prick marks. They are also handy for keeping a cut dead straight; always a challenge in beginners leatherworking projects.

10. Hole Punch

A quick and efficient way to stamp holes into the leather, often in hard to reach places.

11. Hammer

Typically used to shape leather, hammers are especially relevant in shoemaking and saddlery. With a hammer, you can fold leather and set rivets, and it is also useful for lightly hammering your stitches when finishing a project. The thin steel hammer head has two ends, one for hitting and one for placing rivets.

12. Beeswax

An age old compliment to countless crafts, Beeswax is best at giving leathercraft an elegant finish. It also conditions the leather, helping with water resistance, and waterproofing when used properly. It enhances DIY leather subtly when used well, and is an often unsung hero of the leather tool kit.

13. Burnisher


Used to polish the edges of leather after cutting, this smooth wooden utensil reinforces the border and secures the interior of the leather, sealing the edge and ensuring greater durability. There will always be a place for a Burnisher in your leather tool kit.

14. Sandpaper

Also used to smooth the edges on freshly cut leather, the roughness of the sandpaper wears down the loose fibers, wearing them short and forming a denser, smoother surface.

15. Glue

Although there are many techniques to join leather, glue is an excellent means of securing surfaces to ensure that riveting and sewing are simpler and easier. It can be a brilliant tool for beginners leatherworking projects.

So that’s what goes into a beginners leather kit, and few leather toolkits will omit any of these items. When doing leatherworking as part of a DIY leather project, it's good to remember that although there are more leathercraft tools out there, and beginners leatherworking tools are only the start, they open up an enormous range of possibilities for handcrafted leather.

Starting leathercraft shouldn't be all hassle and trouble. With that in mind, we at .Ar:ti|sans gathered an excellent leathercrafting kit tailored to crafters from beginners to intermediate. Check out these amazing range of leathercrafting kit by .Ar:ti|sans.

So get hold of these leathercraft tools and start your first project with the Artisans Leather craft kits, setting out on your own DIY leather journey!

>>> Crafted By: Catherine Williams <<<